Advantage: WSU Tennis

July 14, 2006

By Deidra Lockhart

Audrey Simmelink is scoring big on and off the court, tennis court that is.

At the age of 79, Simmelink is doing things that most people would not dream of doing at her age.

It wasn't until the age of 50 that Simmelink decided to pick up a tennis racket. Since then she has conquered several Senior Women's Tennis Championships, was named the USTA League Tennis Captain of the Year for the Pacific Northwest in 2004 and serves as the captain of the Senior Women's Tennis League in Kennewick, Wash., where she is a resident.

Simmelink has not only been an inspiration to her teammates and her community, but she has also been an inspiration to the Cougar tennis team.

Her accomplishments as a tennis player have even amazed Washington State's tennis team captain, Ekaterina Burduli.

'Sometimes when I look at her, (I think) I wish I could be that active at 20,' said Burduli. 'She is really young in spirit.'

After receiving a degree in elementary education, Simmelink taught for over 40 years. Now, as a retired educator, Audrey spends her time helping others in her community by participating in various organizations and being a big supporter of the WSU women's tennis team.

In 2004, she was named Kennewick's Woman of the Year. In addition, she established the R.M. (Cork) Simmelink Pharmacy Endowment Scholarship in memory of her husband. Simmelink volunteers at Hospice House and Cork's Place, a center to aid children who have lost a loved one, also named in memory of her husband.

Simmelink is involved with other organizations including: Women helping Women, Boys and Girls Clubs, Catholic Family Services, Habitat for Humanity and many more.

Growing up Simmelink was always an athletic person, but during that time there were limited opportunities for females to obtain scholarships by means of their athletic or academic talents.

Since the inception of Title IX in 1972, the number of females who receive athletic or academic scholarships has increased dramatically; nevertheless, over 30 years after Title IX, Simmelink decided to create a scholarship that would allow an aspiring WSU female athlete to achieve goals, both athletically and educationally.

In 2005, Simmelink established an endowed scholarship for a member of the Cougar tennis team. The first recipient of the scholarship was Bianca Selaru, an incoming sophomore from Zalau, Romania.

In addition, Simmelink has contributed to the renovation (currently underway) of the indoor tennis facility at the Hollingbery Fieldhouse, a project that will allow WSU to practice and host matches when the weather is inclement.

Simmelink not only supports the team off the court, but on the court as well. According to Burduli, Simmelink is very enthusiastic when it comes to a Cougar tennis match.

'We all get inspiration (from Audrey) in our own way,' said, Burduli. 'If there is one thing I learned from her it is to be positive. No matter what, she always has a positive energy and positive attitude.'

Simmelink frequently comes to the matches of the tennis team as well as brings some of her teammates to play against the Cougar tennis team.

'I enjoy tennis and am very fond of the WSU tennis team,' Simmelink said. 'They are an excellent group of young ladies and are very competitive.'

According to head tennis coach Lisa Hart, Simmelink has contributed so much more than just monetarily to her team. Hart and her players have really grown close with Simmelink and think of her as family.

'Audrey means a lot to our team,' Hart said. 'She has taught us that tennis is a life-long sport.'

'As I tell people, `Winning isn't a matter of life and death - it's more important than that,'' Simmelink said. 'I am proud to be able to help and Go Cougs!'

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